CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Glowing Titan
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Glowing Titan
PIA 16177

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  This set of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's moon Titan glowing in the dark. Titan was behind Saturn at the time, in eclipse from the sun. The image on the left is a calibrated, but unprocessed image from Cassini's imaging camera. The image on the right was processed to exclude reflected light off Saturn and it is clear that even where Titan did not receive any Saturnshine, it is still emitting light. Some light appears to be emanating from high in the atmosphere (noted by the outer dashed line at about 625 miles or 1,000 kilometers in altitude). But more surprisingly, most of it is diffusing up from lower down in the moon's haze, from about 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface.

The white speckles in the background are streaks from stars. The camera kept focused on Titan during the 560-second-long exposure time of this image and the stars moved during that period relative to Titan. The image was taken on May 7, 2009.

The Cassini Solstice Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Solstice Mission visit, and

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Released: October 31, 2012 (PIA 16177)
Image/Caption Information

Alliance Member Comments
NeKto (Nov 17, 2012 at 6:47 AM):
Well look at that. light from some atmospheric phenomenon at 1000 kilometers. and some sources claim the atmosphere on Titan is less than a third that deep. i have always been impressed with the gas envelope that moon holds. even more so now. it looks like it has quite the ionosphere way up there.

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